Weekly Review: The Exorcist (season 1)

When a mother starts to suspect that her eldest daughter has fallen victim to demonic possession, she reaches out to young Father Tomas for help. His journey into the world of exorcism leads him to disgraced Father Marcus and a sinister plot that extends far deeper than he ever could have imagined.

This review will cover the first season of The Exorcist on FOX.

When I first heard that FOX was developing a television show based on the classic horror film, The Exorcist, I wasn’t really that excited. It seemed to fall into the influx of horror themed shows like Bates Motel, Damian, and Lucifer. All of those shows had premises that fit my interests, but none of them really stuck out to me and kept me watching. My initial thoughts on The Exorcist were that it would be similar to those experiences.

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Luckily, I cast those beginning feelings aside, and I watched the premiere episode of The Exorcist. I was immediately taken by the format of this particular show. It really plays out like a movie. I was impressed by the overall aesthetic, from color grading to camera angles. The series has some pretty notable leads, including Geena Davis (Thelma and Louise) as worried mother Angela Rance, Alan Ruck (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) as her recovering husband Henry, Alfonso Herrera (Sense8) as Father Tomas, and Ben Daniels (House of Cards) as Father Marcus. The show also features roles from Brianne Howey (Scream Queens) and Hannah Kasulka (The Fosters), who do a great job. At first glance, The Exorcist seems like a perfectly appealing show.

What really stands out to me, however, is how the writers approached the story. Rather than simply being a spin off, showing some exorcisms that have no bearing to the original source material that it’s named after, The Exorcist delves much deeper. There are a variety of storylines that eventually all come together into a satisfying story. The show is drenched in mystery and dread, slowly leading you along a path of twists and turns. I absolutely love it.

I have noticed that most reviews pass by the show, calling it below average television. Many of these reviews are based solely on the pilot episode. I will admit that if I were to have reviewed the pilot episode of The Exorcist by itself, I may have had similar complaints. Angela Rance comes to Father Tomas with concerns that her daughter is possessed only 20 minutes into the episode, when, as an audience, we have been shown absolutely nothing that would support that theory. Based on the pilot episode alone, that would support theories that The Exorcist was going to be forced and unbelievable. Based on the first season as a whole, those initial predictions are nowhere near the truth.

This review will not go into detail about how The Exorcist weaves a sophisticated storyline. That would ruin the best reveals of the season. Rest assured that the big questions you may have as the season progresses will be answered when the time is right, and that time will blow you away. I had several jaw dropping moments, when I stared at the screen with my mouth hanging open, gasping “no” in vain.

Rather than your typical television series, The Exorcist plays out as if it were a long-form movie. I found this to be incredibly captivating, but it may lose other viewers at the same time. While many television shows have fallen into a habit of using shocking events as book ends to mid-season and season finales, The Exorcist drops shocking moments periodically throughout the season. I can recall a “season finale moment” in episode 5 and episode 8 of the 10 episode run. It keeps you guessing, and television really needs to get back in the habit of keeping its audience guessing.

Ratings for season one of The Exorcist haven’t been the best, which has created the need for a campaign to “Renew The Exorcist.” At this point, I’m not entirely certain that there will be a season 2, although I would very much love to see one. Based off of the finale episode, I have some idea of where a second season could possibly go, and it may fit closer to what television viewers expect to see.

Despite the lukewarm reception to the pilot episode, The Exorcist has received mainly positive reviews as a whole. It quickly became one of my favorite shows throughout the time it was airing this season. I’m looking forward to seeing its release on Blu-Ray so I can own it. I liked it that much.

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